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Self-Proclaimed 'Incel' Gets 44 Years After Filming Himself Committing Arizona Mall Shooting

Armando Hernandez opened fire at the Westgate Shopping Center with an AR-15 in one hand and a phone in the other, in order to post the mass shooting on social media. 

By Jax Miller
A police handout of Armando Hernandez Jr.

The self-proclaimed “incel” convicted of targeting couples in a 2020 mall shooting in Arizona has been handed the maximum sentence.

Armando Hernandez, 23, will spend 44 years behind bars for the mass shooting that left several people injured, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced Friday. Hernandez, who was 20 at the time of the incident, reportedly targeted couples at the Westgate Shopping Center in 2020 because he felt bullied, according to CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO-TV.

“Those at Westgate on May 20 not only feared for their lives, but three people received serious injuries,” County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said in Friday’s release. “A maximum sentence for these crimes is justice. We are fortunate that the victims in this case survived, and now a dangerous individual has been removed from our community.”

Officials said Hernandez was alone when he entered the entertainment district in Glendale — just northwest of Phoenix — and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle in one hand and a phone in the other to post the shooting on social media.

Hernandez reportedly also filmed himself driving to the mall that day, showing his guns in the backseat, according to local outlet West Valley View.

“Hello, my name is Armando Junior Hernandez, and I’m gonna be the shooter of Westgate 2020,” he said. “This is to get back at society.”

During the attack, Hernandez seriously injured three people — a 19-year-old man who was listed in critical condition after being shot in the chest, a 30-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl — but no one was killed.

Police said Hernandez had planned on killing no less than 10 people that day, according to KPHO-TV, but his weapon jammed.

“He had 90 rounds of ammunition,” prosecutor Ed Leiter said during the bail hearing. “But for the gun jamming, we would have been looking at many more victims.”

Hernandez surrendered to police as soon as they arrived on the scene.

He would later tell authorities that he committed the crime as a means “to gain respect,” and prosecutors alleged he'd spent three years planning to commit a “mass casualty" event, the West Valley View reported.

Hernandez also identified himself to police as an “incel,” a Reddit-born portmanteau of “involuntarily” and “celibate." According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "incel" describes an individual, generally male, who typically “holds resentment and hostility toward those who are sexually active” when he is not.

Incels place blame for any sexual rejection as well as their inability to form healthy intimate relationships onto women and society, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Prosecutors previously said Hernandez specifically targeted couples, according to the local outlet.

“He wants people to feel the pain he has on a daily basis,” said Leiter. “He is very open about having a dark side, and that dark side was coming out.”

The mother of the 16-year-old shooting victim was one of several people who read victim impact statements during Friday’s sentencing, according to KPHO-TV.

“He ruined her chance to become a nurse because she can’t stand on her legs anymore,” the mother stated. “We put her through trauma therapy and physical therapy. The doctors told us she has PTSD. She stopped going out. She stopped getting dressed up.”

The mother of the 19-year-old shooting victim was also present for sentencing, directing her impact statement at Hernandez.

“My son used to always smile, and now he doesn’t smile anymore, and he’s always looking over his back,” she said. “You changed our lives forever, and even though my son didn’t die, we lost him. We lost someone who was loving and caring.”

Court records show Hernandez was initially charged with more than 40 felonies. However, most of them were dismissed when he agreed to plead guilty to two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault on April 1, according to the Associated Press.

Hernandez will serve his sentence in the Arizona Department of Corrections, according to the county attorney’s office. He will also spend seven years on probation following his release.

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